The Prophecy

and the golden book

There is a prophecy among the Karen people. It involves three brothers and the truth hidden within the pages of a golden book. It is said that there is one God and that God can be found through the words written in the book. The prophecy states that the book will reach the Karen people in the hands of the youngest of the three brothers. A white man. It is said that through the book, the Karen people will know God.

For thousands of years, the Karen held onto this prophecy. On their wrists, they wore a bracelet, a symbol of their bondage to dark spirits. When the true God revealed himself to them, they would cut their bracelets. They would be free.

And so they waited. Holding onto this prophecy until the 1800s when a Baptist missionary arrived in Burma (now Myanmar) to preach the gospel. He brought with him a Bible. Its gilt pages glistening gold in the light of the sun.

The Karen are a minority people group in Thailand. A hill tribe. They live mostly in villages in the mountains. They have their own national dress. Their own flag. Their own language. They even have their own national anthem. But they don’t have a country. They’re dispersed around the world. Many of them fear they will lose their Karen-ness. That eventually, their people will be lost forever.

For the Karen people BMS World Mission is partnering with, Christianity is inherently part of the Karen identity. Karen as a written language has come through missionaries – through the Bible, the golden book.

While other religious texts cannot be read in Karen, the Bible can. Culture, language and faith are inextricably entwined for Karen Christians – if one of them is lost, they all will be.

A field with mountains in Thailand
The Karen villages are breathtakingly beautiful.

With your support, BMS is helping the Thai Karen people protect their identity. You’re standing with them as they make our faith known and save their culture. You’re helping them fulfil their prophecy.

The cool young brothers

It’s the young people that will be the first to go. Karen villages are generally beautiful, idyllic places, relatively remote and cut-off, so in order to access higher education young people must move to Thai cities. They leave their villages – where avocados and passion fruit grow in abundance and their parents work as farmers – to study in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. These are big cities where you can easily get swallowed up. You study in Thai. Communicate in Thai. You’re suddenly thrown into a completely different culture. And many older Karen people would see this new culture as godless. Thailand is a Buddhist nation. It’s made huge advancements in technology. Cities are littered with cars and bars. It’s a million miles away from the life these young people have grown up in.

BMS is supporting five Karen youth leaders to come alongside Karen students in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, building community with them, connecting them with churches and making sure they don’t lose themselves and their identity in the chaos of adapting to life in the city. “If we don’t take care of them they might lose their faith,” says Chirasak Kutae, one of the BMS-supported youth team. “We have to follow them and bring them back to keep their identity. To keep their faith.”

Five Karen men
When you give to BMS, you support amazing people like these youth leaders.

The youth team also work in Karen villages in the ten associations of the Thai Karen Baptist Convention (TKBC). They encourage young Christians and invite them and their friends to attend sports events and camps. Over the last four years, 3,748 young Karen have been involved in the youth team’s sports events – 1,247 of whom were not Christians. And amazingly, through their witness, 78 young people have found Christ!

Fortunately, not all young Karen people are at risk of losing their language and culture. The young leaders studying at the BMS-supported Siloam Bible Institute in Chiang Mai are special. They’ve moved to the city – yes. But they’ve chosen to study the Bible. And they’ve chosen to study it in Karen. Many of them have a specific vision to go back to their villages and work as pastors and children’s leaders. By supporting them and their teachers, you’re helping to keep the Karen culture alive.

Vitoon is in his fourth year studying at Siloam. He plans to go back to his people when he finishes his studies. “I want to keep our language and I want to restore it again,” says Vitoon. “Many Karen people don’t know God yet. They’ve never heard about Jesus. I want to plant churches in the mountains, amongst Karen people.”

You may wonder why Vitoon and the other Karen people you’re serving when you give to BMS are so desperate to preserve their culture. Prateep Dee (also known as Timu) is the General Secretary of TKBC and believes that every culture and every language is a gift from God. “Culture is a God-given thing. God has given value and beauty to each nation,” says Timu. “If we lose our identity, that is something very serious, because it is something God has given.”

The evil-spirit-fighting warrior sisters

A Karen woman
Plerka has seen God do amazing things in her village. You've been a part of that.

It’s not just young Karen people you’re standing with when you give to BMS. You’re standing alongside women, too. The women in Karen villages are beacons for everything that is beautiful in Karen culture. Handwoven traditional dress, hospitality, singing. A simple life of farming, family and fellowship. But they’re also strong. Brave. And isolated. Many of the older generation are unable to speak Thai, while their grandchildren are barely able to communicate in Karen.

If you were supporting BMS in 1988, you helped send Jacqui Wells to Thailand to work with our Karen sisters. When she arrived, the women of TKBC told her they had been praying for more than 12 years for someone to come and help them start work among the Karen women. They saw Jacqui as an answer to those prayers.

Jacqui spent more than 20 years working alongside the women of TKBC, with BMS support – helping to set up a network of evangelists who would encourage the women in village churches across northern Thailand and help them to engage with their communities. This work has had a huge impact in places like Maeka village.

“Before the women’s ministry started here 25 years ago, only six families were Christian,” says Plerka, a member of the church in Maeka. “Now, every person has become a Christian. Fifty or sixty families.

“Before, there was a very strong evil spirit working here, and many people did not dare to stay in this village. But now, because of the Christians, the evil spirit and the demons have walked away. They are not living here anymore.”

Because of your giving, we continue to fight the darkness in Karen hill villages, through evangelism, discipleship and the spiritual growth and prayer they encourage. You’re funding ten women to work as evangelists among the associations of TKBC, as well as someone to oversee the work.

“Because the evangelists come and teach the word of the Lord, that’s why our faith grows and grows,” says Plerka.

The Father’s workmanship, hand in hand

A Karen woman sits weaving
Women like Supaw are sharing the gospel in Karen villages, thanks to your support.

There is a prophecy among the Karen people. It involves three brothers and the truth hidden within the pages of a golden book. It is said that there is one God and that God can be found through the words written in the book.

When you give your support to BMS, you’re helping the Karen people fulfil their own prophecy. They have a vision to spread the gospel throughout Thailand – and you’re walking with them, hand in hand. Taking the golden book to places where its pages have never been read. Shining the truth and cutting through the darkness.

“We are the workmanship of the Lord and it is beautiful when we work together,” says Timu, head of TKBC. He’s speaking to me, but his words are meant for you, wherever you are in Britain, and whatever way you’ve helped make BMS work possible. “We are so thankful that you are part of our ministry,” he says. “Because our ministry is your ministry – it’s the ministry of our one true God. And one day we will be in the presence of God, and he will say: ‘well done children for working together for my glory.’”

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This story was originally published in Engage, the BMS World Mission magazine. To read more inspirational stories like this one, subscribe to Engage today!

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Posted on: December 20 2018

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